Fri, 04 Dec 2020

FOUR DOWNS: Breaking down the Lions' game-winning drive

Detroit Lions
26 Oct 2020, 19:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

FIRST DOWN: THE FINAL DRIVE

It's a situation Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had found himself in 29 times before Sunday. Running out onto the field down on the scoreboard and needing to drive the field to put the Lions in a position to score a touchdown and win a game.

"That's what you live for as a quarterback," Stafford said after the game. "All you ask for on offense is a chance. I love doing that. That's my favorite part about playing the game. I love this game and I love competing and there's no more competitive pressure-packed situation."

Like he's done 29 times before, Stafford calmly stepped under center and navigated the Lions 75 yards in eight plays using all of the one minute and four seconds left on the clock to record his 30th comeback win that potentially saves the Lions season, getting them back to 3-3 on the year.

Stafford threw incomplete on first down to wide receiver Kenny Golladay that took seven seconds off the clock. He threw to tight end T.J. Hockenson down the right sideline on second down for 13 yards, but Hockenson didn't step out of bounds, wasting 22 seconds before the Lions could spike it with 37 seconds left at Detroit's 38-yard line.

Stafford hit wide receiver Danny Amendola on 2nd and 10 for 22 yards to the Atlanta 38-yard line. They hurried to the line and spiked it with 20 seconds left.

Stafford's best throw of the contest came next, a ball he fit behind the dropping linebackers and in front of the safety to a sliding Golladay at the Falcons' 11-yard line. The offense raced up to the line to spike the ball, but the clock was stopped to review if Golladay had caught the ball or not. After it was ruled a catch, Stafford spiked the ball and had two seconds left and one play left from the 11-yard line to tie it.

Stafford dropped back and felt some pressure, but stepped left to avoid it and saw Hockenson breaking open in the end zone. Stafford threw a strike, Hockenson made the catch, kicker Matt Prater made the extra point, and the Lions are back to 3-3.

The Lions did a good job on the drive using the middle of the field for chunk plays knowing the time, situation and open spots.

"That's what you live for as a quarterback," Stafford said.

SECOND DOWN: GOLLADAY MAKING PLAYS

For the second straight week, Golladay came up with a 100-yard receiving performance in a Lions win. Whether it's big plays down the sideline or tough catches in a crowd or just running a terrific route and being on the same page with Stafford, Golladay's proven how important he is to the Lions' offense.

Golladay finished with six receptions on seven targets for 114 yards.

"I thought he made some huge catches for us," Stafford said of Golladay after the game. "A couple I didn't get to see. Throw them and a bunch of guys in front of me and we're moving the sticks. Had some huge third-down catches for us."

Golladay made a huge 18-yard catch down the left sideline over two defenders late in the first half to set up a Prater field goal as time expired in the first half. He had a 29-yard catch in the third quarter on a 3rd and 11 to set up another Prater field goal. And of course the big play at the end of the game.

"Anytime the ball is in the air, I want it to be mine, it has to be mine," Golladay said after the game. "I just got to make that play. I'm grateful when Stafford always gives me an opportunity to make a play."

Stafford has no reservations whatsoever throwing the ball to Golladay, especially if he's one-on-one, and it's clear he's become a favorite target of No. 9's.

THIRD DOWN: NATIONAL TIGHT ENDS DAY

"Happy National Tight End Day," Hockenson said with a huge smile as he strolled to the microphone following his game-tying 11-yard touchdown catch as time expired Sunday.

The catch was the fifth in the game for Hockenson and marked the third straight contest in which he's caught a touchdown for the Lions.

He now has 22 receptions on the year for 256 yards and four touchdowns. His receptions and touchdowns lead the team.

"Hock did a great job of working the front end line," Stafford said of the final touchdown catch by Hockenson. "Sometimes I can hit that ball right out of his break as Hock goes in there. (Number) 45 did a nice job kind of squatting on the front end line, so I had to buy a little time and Hock just kept working the front end line and got lost and was able to shoot it to him and he made a nice catch for a touchdown."

Hockenson said the Falcons played different coverage on that play than the Lions were expecting, and the middle was packed, so Hockenson had to work the goal line a little longer toward the boundary. Stafford did a great job extending the play, and he found Hockenson, who along with Golladay, is becoming one of his favorite targets this season.

FOURTH DOWN: PASS RUSH DUO

Last week in Jacksonville Lions defensive end Trey Flowers stripped Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew of the ball, and fellow Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara was right there to recover it.

Sunday in Atlanta, Okwara returned the favor. He got to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan late in the fourth quarter and stripped him of the football, which Flowers picked up.

Okwara hasn't been talked about enough early this season with the way he's played opposite Flowers. Together, those two have really picked it up the last couple weeks and generated good pressure and game-changing plays. The big difference the last couple weeks is finishing those plays in the backfield.

"I think Romeo has been unbelievable," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said after the game. "Really he and Trey Flowers are two guys that come to work every single day and they make each other better. They really spend a lot of time together talking about the game and techniques and how they practice, they stay after practice a lot and they work on individual just fundamental skills and stuff like that, and I think you can just see the growth that Romeo has had certainly just being out there and playing and getter better every single week, but it's not a surprise because he works really hard.

"He wants to be great, and I think that, like I said, he and Trey do an unbelievable job every single day, and really glad for him, happy for him. Give him all the credit in the world; he made some big plays. It was great."

Okwara logged three solo tackles, 2.0 sacks, three quarterback hits, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble Sunday. He upped his season total to 4.0 sacks, currently the team lead.

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